Attaining The Pinnacle In Eventing

May 7, 2009 - 10:00 PM

One of my favorite pastimes as a child was combing through my father’s Sports Illustrated magazines and cutting out photos and articles of my favorite horses, such as Ruffian, Seattle Slew and Affirmed.

In fact, 1978, the year we had our last Triple Crown winner in Affirmed, was a bountiful year for my scrapbook. That fall Bruce Davidson first crossed my radar, when a beautiful photograph of his striking gray Might Tango graced the pages of SI in full color after they won the World Eventing Championships in Kentucky. From then on, I was a fan.

So it was with great pleasure that I watched his son Buck, some 30 years later, make his mark on the sport during this year’s Rolex Kentucky CCI**** (p. 8), when Buck placed third behind two top international riders, Lucinda Fredericks and Bettina Hoy.

Buck, at age 33, has been a prominent figure in the sport since his young rider days, but with two impressive four-star horses at Rolex, two three-star horses at home, a fitter physique and a confident but humble demeanor in the press conferences, he now seems to have stepped his game up another level.

Perhaps this year’s Rolex Kentucky results were a bit of a wake-up call for other U.S. riders, however. Many foreign competitors crossed the Atlantic to check out the facility at the Kentucky Horse Park and the competition for next year’s 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. There’s no doubt the North American riders have some catching up to do. The U.S. riders comprised 60 percent of this year’s starting field, yet they accounted for just 30 percent of the top 10 finishers. And just two U.S. riders cracked the top 10 in the dressage phase, which proved pivotal this year as the double-clear scores in cross-country and show jumping were more plentiful than in years past.

Buck was among those who successfully mastered the jumping tests at Rolex with both of his horses—My Boy Bobby and Ballynoe Castle RM. He also proved all of the homework he’s done over the past few years has paid off, including time spent studying dressage last summer in Europe with Bettina Hoy. In addition, attaining supportive sponsors and owners, such as the Segals who own his two four-star horses, has helped him to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Bruce has won Rolex Kentucky five times (1993, 1989, 1988, 1984, and 1983) and completed this year with Cruise Lion and Jam. Watching father and son boldly tackle the imposing cross-country course on multiple horses was a testament to their dedication, hard work and talent. Although Buck wasn’t able to yet attain that Rolex victory, with third, his best placing to date, he earned the USET Foundation Pinnacle Cup for the highest-placing U.S. rider.

“As I get older and do more things, it’s cooler and cooler to win what he’s won,” said Buck of his father’s accomplishments. “There are probably not too many fathers and sons who have won that trophy. I’m starting to do things now that he did. Now I just have to win [at Rolex]!”

And no doubt with the great strides he’s made recently, Buck is well on his way and should be an inspiration to other U.S. eventers. In fact, I would imagine there are many young riders out there now adding Buck’s photos to their scrapbooks (or Facebook pages)!

Tricia Booker, Editor

Category: Columns

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